A dynamic approach to training and skills development by employers and learning providers across Wales and inspirational individual success stories were celebrated as the winners of this year’s prestigious Apprenticeship Awards Cymru were announced last night (October 20).
The awards ceremony, held at Venue Cymru, Llandudno, brought together the cream of learners, employers and training providers across Wales, who have excelled in contributing to the development of the Welsh Government’s Traineeships, Jobs Growth Wales and Apprenticeship programmes. The Apprenticeship Programme is funded by the Welsh Government with support from the European Social Fund.
Thirty-three star learners, employers and learning providers involved in the delivery of a range of successful skills programmes across Wales were shortlisted for the prestigious awards, jointly organised by the Welsh Government and the National Training Federation for Wales (NTfW). The awards are sponsored by Pearson PLC and supported by media partner, Media Wales.
It proved a successful evening for Grŵp Llandrillo Menai as assessor Mark McDonough and two learners, Cassidy Jones and Angharad Jones, all collected awards.
Mark, 36, from Denbigh, who won the Work-based Learning Assessor of the Year award, set up a bespoke Apprenticeship in Wind Turbine Maintenance and Operations in Wales in partnership with Innogy Renewables UK and Isofab Limited/Vattenfall four years ago and now travels to windfarms across the UK to assess apprentices.
Cassidy, 17, from Bethesda, collected the Traineeship Learner of the Year (Engagement) Award. Described by her training provider as “a triumph of human spirit”, she has set her sights on becoming a hair stylist after overcoming huge difficulties in her life, including the death of her father and being bullied. She now works for HQ salon in Bangor and is progressing to Foundation Apprenticeship.
Angharad, 18, from Valley, Anglesey, who won the Traineeship Learner of the Year (Level 1) Award, has shown that there are more routes to learning than school exams. Her full potential was unleashed on a placement at Plas Arthur Leisure Centre, Llangefni and she now loves the way she learns.
It proved second time lucky for Chris Hughes, 55, who works for ACT Limited as Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) tutor. A finalist last year, he was a winner this time, collecting the Work-based Learning Tutor of the Year Award. Chris, from Maesycwmmer, has more than 20 years’ experience in training and development and works with around 180 learners across South Wales.
The Jobs Growth Wales Outstanding Achiever of the Year Award went to Marc Pugh, 20, from Llanfaredd, near Builth Wells. The Jobs Growth Wales programme has opened the door to a dream career for Marc who has secured a permanent job at Happy Horse Retirement Home at Crai, near Brecon, where he has achieved a series of qualifications, helped expand the business and aims to become a qualified riding instructor.
Niall Perks, 20, from Cardiff, collected the Foundation Apprentice of the Year Award. He has progressed from a part-time job in a fish and chip shop to a promising IT and telecoms career with Cwmbran-based SIPHON where he is working towards a Foundation Apprenticeship in IT Software, Web and Telecoms Professionals. A learner with Acorn Learning Solutions, Niall won a gold medal in the WorldSkills UK heats for Advanced Support Technicians earlier this year.
Maria Brooks, 28, from Porthcawl, the first adult woman apprentice taken on at Ford’s Bridgend plant, was named Apprentice of the Year. An ambassador for engineering careers to the next generation, Maria’s four-year apprenticeship will give her a Higher National Certificate in electrical engineering.
The Higher Apprentice of the Year Award went to avionic design engineer Jamie Stenhoff, 21, from Flint, who works for Marshall Aviation Services at Hawarden Airport. Having achieved a Higher Apprenticeship in Advanced Manufacturing Engineering, he has helped upgrade a complex flight management system on a fleet of 146 aircraft and is now working towards an Electrical and Electronic Engineering degree at Chester University.
The employer awards were shared by some of the biggest and less well-known names on the Welsh business scene. The Small Employer of the Year Award went to family business Crimewatch Alarms Ltd and CW Electrical, Newport, which has placed training and development at the top of its agenda since it was formed 30 years ago. Prompted by a shortage of quality, skilled engineers in the electrical contracting industry, the company is reaping the benefits of setting up an apprenticeship programme working with learning provider Coleg QS.
Llantrisant-based insurance brokerage and risk management company Arthur J. Gallagher was named Medium Employer of the Year. After identifying a skills gap within jobseekers in the financial services sector, the company launched an apprenticeship programme to support recruitment and increase customer service. In the past five years, 74 employees have completed an apprenticeship with the company, which currently has 38 apprentices in Wales.
Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water collected the Large Employer of the Year Award. The company has developed an apprenticeship and trainee talent programme to ensure it is future-proofed when it comes to training its workforce. Since 2011, 87 apprentices and trainees have been employed and a further 23 apprentices and trainees were recruited this year.
The Macro Employer of the Year Award went to BT PLC. With more than 50 years’ experience of running an apprenticeship programme, the company understands the importance of providing ongoing education and training for its staff. Apprenticeships are available in a wide range of roles and the company now employs 91 apprentices in Wales, with plans to take on 71 more this year.
Wales’ Minister for Skills and Science Julie James congratulated the winners and award finalists. “We are proud to be delivering one of the most successful apprenticeship programmes in Europe with success rates in Wales remaining well above 80 per cent,” she said.
“Developing skilled people is vital for our economy. We have some truly exceptional apprentices here in Wales and the Apprenticeship Awards Cymru provide a perfect platform for us to celebrate their hard work and achievements. Equally important are the learning providers and employers who go the extra mile to support their apprentices.”
Sarah John, NTfW chair, said: “Apprenticeships are the gold standard in vocational training, guaranteeing that employers have at their disposal a talented and motivated workforce with the practical skills and qualifications needed now and in the future.
“Congratulations to all the award finalists who are proof of the successful partnership approach to skills development in Wales by the government, employers, apprentices and learning providers working together to deliver lasting results and the best apprenticeship system in the UK.”
The other finalists were: Traineeship Learner of the Year (engagement): Cameron Thomas, St Mellons, Cardiff trained by Itec Skills and Employment and Leon Proudlock, Henllan, Denbigh trained by Grŵp Llandrillo Menai. Traineeship Learner of the Year (level one): Darren Watts, Butetown, Cardiff trained by ACT Limited and Rhys Pugh, Pontyberem, Llanelli trained by Coleg Sir Gâr. Jobs Growth Wales: Callum Jones, Pontypool trained by Itec Skills and Employment and Oliver Chatfield, Varteg, Pontypool trained by Itec Skills and Employment.
Foundation Apprentice of the Year: Gwilym Bowen Rhys, Bethel, Caernarfon and Rhys Donovan, Merthyr Tydfil. Apprentice of the Year: Leanne Williams, Wrexham and Michael Leach, Rhydfellin, Pontypridd. Higher Apprentice of the Year: Adam Harvey, Barry and Matthew Edwards, Wrexham. Work-based Learning Assessor and Tutor of the Year: Lisa Marie Winter from Acorn Learning Solutions, Newport who lives in Llanharan and Michael Ramsden from Cambrian Training Company, Welshpool who lives in Cardiff.
Small Employer of the Year: Ken Picton Salon, Cardiff and University of South Wales Child Care Services Department, Treforest, Pontypridd. Medium Employer of the Year: Little Inspirations, Pontyclun and Values in Care Ltd, Hengoed, Caerphilly. Large and Macro Employer of the Year: Argos, OP Chocolate, Dowlais, Merthyr Tydfil and Innogy Renewables UK, Llanidloes.